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NIK KERSHAW INTERVIEW [2006]

YOU HAVE RELEASED YOUR NEW ALBUM 'YOU'VE GOT TO LAUGH' COMPLETELY INDEPENDENTLY HAVEN'T YOU? HOW HAS IT BEEN NOT HAVING A LABEL BEHIND YOU?

The only real problem with me is that I do need someone to give me a kick up the arse every now and again... I'm not one of life's most motivated people and I do need the occasional kick! When you're with a record company and you've got schedules in place - promotion dates and marketing and all those things - then you have to get on with it, you're part of that machine but when you're doing it yourself you're running the machine so it goes at the speed you do, which is not always very fast!

SO IF YOU HAD BEEN ON A MAJOR LABEL FOR THIS ALBUM WOULD IT HAVE COME OUT A LOT EARLIER?

It would have been out... well, five years ago - that's how long I've been making it!

IS THERE EVER A PROBLEM WITH DOING IT YOURSELF IN THAT YOU CAN'T QUITE BRING YOURSELF TO CALL IT FINISHED?

Yeah, that's always a problem, particularly when you're producing your own record which I've done on this one - and which I've done pretty much since 'Radio Musicola'. You're kind of done when you haven't got any new tracks left, but even that theory doesn't really work because you can just make more tracks, so you have to sort of sit back and think 'does this stand on its own or does it really need some extra wobble-board'?

EVEN WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED IT MUST STILL BE TEMPTING TO JUST GO BACK AND PUT IN A BIT OF EXTRA WOBBLE-BOARD HERE AND THERE...

The thing is that it can always be different, there's so many different ways of skinning the cat. You commit to one way of doing something when you start recording a track and you can get to the end of it and look back and go 'instead of turning left back there I should have turned right', so it is tempting to sort of dismantle it sometimes, and fix bits and pieces... which I do, I must admit! But what I try to do is to try and recognise when I'm at that stage - of picking things to pieces - then I just forget about it and go and sit on a mountain or whatever for two weeks and then come back and have another listen, and it's like listening to someone else somehow and quite often that does the trick.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS ALBUM?

No I don't... I really don't... it's just kind of out there now and it's available, kind of because there's no reason for it not to be. It really is as simple as that. I've made the record - that's what I do - and there it is so if someone wants to listen to it that's great. I'm not expecting anything. It would be nice to make it a financially viable thing to do but I'm in a very fortunate position in that my back catalogue - writing-wise, not recording-wise - is very, very healthy and I have the luxury of being able to do this.

SO MANY OF THE ARTISTS I TALK TO ARE IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS NOW AND IT'S REALLY REFRESHING BECAUSE IT'S ALMOST LIKE EVERYONE HAS BEEN UNBURDENED AND IS IN A POSITION WHERE THEY CAN ACTUALLY MAKE THE MUSIC THEY WANT TO MAKE...

Yeah it's great. There are still people out there that even after all these years still want to be seen at all the right parties and still want to be in that space up there. The way that they feel about themselves is so determined by it that they can't let that part of it go, but I think a lot of us can let it go - we're not on the telly all the time but it doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter that we don't get attention all the time and that is a huge liberation, it really is.

NO-ONE LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER AND ASKING WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO WRITE THE KILLER SINGLE, THE RADIO RECORD?

Yes absolutely... 'I can't hear a single'... well, that's because I didn't make one!

I'M GUESSING THAT YOUR LAST CONTACT WITH THE MAJOR LABEL INDUSTRY WAS LAST YEAR WHEN YOU RELEASED THE 'THEN AND NOW' COMPILATION WHICH INCLUDED NEW SONGS ALONGSIDE THE OLDER STUFF?

Yeah, and that's another reason why this album took so long because those four new tracks were from this album, so when we released them on the compilation I had to replace those tracks!

WAS THAT WHOLE EXPERIENCE INSTRUMENTAL IN MAKING THE DECISION TO TAKE THE INDEPENDENT ROUTE THIS TIME AROUND?

To an extent yeah, the problem with all major corporations is that they're businesses - let's be fair about it - they're not there for your benefit they just want to make money, and they don't just want to make a bit of money they want to make lots of money. They don't want to make a little bit of money and get by, that's not of the slightest interest to them at all. But once you've accepted that it's not such a bitter pill to swallow... I wasn't surprised at what happened and it just sort of reconfirmed my theory that it's better to just disregard them altogether and do it yourself.

YOU WERE PRETTY INVOLVED TOO WEREN'T YOU? I REMEMBER YOU DID SOME SHOWS AND SOME RADIO SESSIONS AND STUFF AND YOU WERE PRETTY MUCH BACK ON THE TREADMILL?

Well there's no point in not having a go at it. I was offered - I should say 'promised' - gazillions of pounds of TV advertising around the release so it would have been a bit churlish of me to sit back and say 'that's fine but I'm just going to sit here on my arse while you do it'. You have to have a go at it... I just wish they had had a go at it as well!

SHORTLY BEFORE THE 'THEN AND NOW' RELEASE THERE WAS THE 'HERE & NOW' TOUR... WAS YOUR DECISION TO DO THAT BASED IN ANY WAY ON UNIVERSAL'S DECISION TO REVISIT AND REWORK YOUR CATALOGUE AND INTRODUCE YOU AS A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST?

I don't think that at any stage were Universal interested in me as a contemporary artist, I think they just wanted to flog a load of back catalogue, but that in turn would have been good for me as a contemporary artist and that was the intention. But the tour and the compilation didn't really run in tandem, we were talking to Universal when the 'Here & Now' thing came about but it was obvious that they weren't really going to get their arses into gear and do anything about it, so no... the paths didn't really cross.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DO 'HERE & NOW'? I MEAN UP TO THAT POINT IT HAD BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME SINCE YOU'D TOURED HADN'T IT?

Yeah, I was dragged kicking and screaming! It kind of got to the stage that I'd turned it down so many times - and turned down equivalent things so many times - that in the end I just kind of ran out reasons not to do it you know? The final reason - apart from the fact that the money was bloody good - was that it turned out to be a good laugh! Sometimes that's all you need, to have a good laugh, and I needed one!

I INTERVIEWED MIDGE URE AROUND THAT TIME...

Yeah? And he wasn't too sure about doing it either was he? Meeting him at the press conference to announce the tour we both looked at each other and he said 'I'm only doing this because they said you were doing it' and I said 'Well I'm only doing it because they said you were doing it'! But it was a good laugh. It was a pretty eclectic line-up but it was good, even just sitting in the bar with everyone afterwards... 'Do you remember the time when so-and-so did such-and-such?'...

WAS IT GRATIFYING TO GET OUT AND PLAY THOSE SONGS TO SUCH BIG AUDIENCES?

Yeah it was, it was great to hear the old guitar bashing back off the back-wall and to play places that size again, because you don't get the same experience in working men's clubs or wherever... so that was a bit of a treat and for twenty-minutes you could actually pretend they were there to see you!

DO YOU THINK THAT HISTORY HAS BEEN KIND TO THE NIK KERSHAW STORY?

(laughs) Ummmm... to give you an answer to that would indicate that I care! But I guess I do care... I don't care as much as I used to; I used to feel that I was hugely misrepresented and hugely misunderstood, which funnily enough is what everyone says! Part of it was my own fault because I didn't really pay attention to how I was perceived so I take the blame for some of that but in the end it doesn't matter you know? All that really matters is whether you were good to your mates and are your kids still talking to you...

YOU TOUCHED ON YOUR OWN PERCEPTION OF YOURSELF, BUT - UNUSUALLY I THINK - YOU ARE ALSO VERY MUCH AN ARTIST WHO IS HIGHLY RESPECTED BY OTHER ARTISTS, AS AN ARTIST AND AS A SONGWRITER...

Well that's nice to hear... it is nice to know because it doesn't seem to be considered very important, especially as far as most of the press is concerned where it's almost irrelevant what you're doing - all that matters is who you are and who you're shagging. It's a comforting thought that your work is probably going to be remembered longer than you are so that's really the legacy to think about...

WELL YOU CERTAINLY HAVE A GREAT BODY OF WORK, AND IN ADDITION TO YOUR SOLO STUFF THERE'S A PHENOMENAL LIST OF OTHER ARTISTS YOU HAVE WORKED WITH...

Um, yeah... although you always think it could be more! But I have been very lucky and I've been asked to do some great things.

WHEN YOU WRITE FOR OTHER PEOPLE DO YOU WRITE WITH THEM IN MIND? USING THEIR VOICES ALMOST?

Well I haven't really done any writing for anyone else since I started making my own records again but I think most writers will tell you that it's usually pretty pointless just sitting down in front of a keyboard or a guitar or a computer, writing a song, getting it demoed and then expecting someone to just pick it up and record it... that very rarely happens. Usually when a writer is writing a song there's a project in mind, or they've been asked to do something specific with someone, the co-write is the normal way of getting a song on a record nowadays, the co-writer usually being the artiste who doesn't know how to write a song.

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR THINGS THAT STAND OUT FOR YOU, THINGS THAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE AMONG THOSE THAT PEOPLE REMEMBER YOU FOR?

You know, that's why I keep going... because I haven't done it yet! I keep thinking that I have to carry on with this because I still haven't got it quite right, so you just keep on going... I suppose the next question is if there's anything I wish I hadn't done?

ACTUALLY IT WASN'T, BUT SEEING AS YOU BROUGHT IT UP...

Well I think that donning certain items of clothing... I don't really want that on my tombstone, I think it would be a bit of shame if my whole life was summed up by that!

GOING BACK TO THE WORK YOU'LL BE REMEMBERED BY, AND THE DRIVE TO DO MORE THINGS TO TRY AND REACH THAT PEAK... DO YOU THINK IT'S EVER ACTUALLY POSSIBLE TO REACH THAT POINT?

I don't know... I saw that 'classic albums' series that was on the telly recently and one of the albums was 'Graceland' by Paul Simon, and I sat there and watched Paul Simon at the mixing desk pushing up the faders on one of the track - I think it was 'Call Me Al' - and he pushed the fader up and looked at the bloke next to him with a real sad look in his eye and said 'that's as good as it gets', and I thought 'shit, I hope that never happens to me'...

THERE WAS A PERIOD FROM THE EARLY NINETIES FOR ABOUT TEN YEARS WHEN YOU WERE WORKING WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHEN YOU PRETTY MUCH STEPPED RIGHT OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT, SO WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU COME BACK AND START WORKING UNDER YOUR OWN NAME AGAIN?

Frustration I think, more than anything else... it was becoming increasingly difficult to get heard. I was writing with loads of people, I was doing a lot of work 99% of which never got heard, and I began to start projects almost with that fatalistic resignation and just kind of going through the motions because no-one was going to hear it. For various reasons, politics whatever, artists you've worked a year with get dumped before the record comes out, things like that... plus when you're writing for other people you're never really following it through, you're never really totally expressing yourself. You sort of half write a song and give it to someone else and just kind of wave goodbye to it, and that was frustrating. Plus there were certain things in my head, certain songs that just no-one else could sing, they weren't commercial and they were very specific in what they were - so I thought either I ignore these songs or I record them, so I recorded them and once you've done that what do you do with them? My former-manager persuaded me that I should sign with Eagle Records and make an album with them which is what I did.

AND AT THAT POINT, ALTHOUGH COMMERCIALLY THE MATERIAL DIDN'T PERFORM AS WELL AS SOME OF YOUR EARLIER WORK, CRITICALLY THOSE RECORDS WERE INCREDIBLY WELL RECEIVED...

They were, I've still got the 4-star Q reviews on the wall! But all that kind of thing is so luck of the draw, it depends who gets to review your record and whether they're on your side or not...

NOW THE NEW ALBUM IS OUT AND AVAILABLE WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT? WILL THERE BE ANY GIGS OR ANYTHING?

Probably not... I don't think so. You know, I like to do things properly and I don't think I could do a gig at a a level that I think would satisfy me. I'm not just talking about physically how many people would be watching but really just how much money I would have to spend to make it look and sounds like I want it to look and sound. The alternative to that is to do what Midge Ure does and pick up a guitar and just drive up and down the M1 which I admire him immensely for doing, but for me I just can't get my head around doing that. So no there are no plans but I can never say never. I can never say for certain it won't happen. I've never been great at making plans or following them...

ANYTHING ELSE PLANNED?

I'm just seeing how this goes; I don't have a lot of choice about whether I'm going to carry on writing or making records that just takes care of itself. If a song turns up it just demands to be written or recorded and if I don't record a song it just bugs me and I won't sleep properly until I put it down and exorcise it. So I think that will always happen - I will always write and make records - but what I do with them and who I do it with is another matter...

DECEMBER 2006

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